Latest Poll in Senate Race

The new Masslive/ Western New England University poll didn’t change anything for the odds makers.

The latest polling numbers in the ongoing “race” for US Senate in Massachusetts provide us with some interesting fodder for speculation and discussion, but no evidence to suggest that the outcomes on April 30th or June 25th are in doubt. Nonetheless we are told by the media that the polls reveals a “vulnerable” lead for Markey in his race against fellow Democrat Stephen Lynch. Some interpreters of the poll have also suggested that it shows that Gabriel Gomez has made up ground against Michael Sullivan.

I suggest that the poll doesn’t provide reliable evidence for either of these claims.

First, let’s examine Mr. Markey’s 10 point lead over Mr. Lynch. With two weeks to go, what would make a 10 point lead precarious for Mr. Markey? If Lynch’s organizational effort were demonstrably more effective than Mr. Markey’s, then a 10 point lead might be precarious. Political scientists may disagree about just how many percentage points a large organizational advantage is worth on Election Day, but there is no doubt that it is a significant advantage. In the case of a party primary, it should surprise no one that the candidate most attractive to the base of the party enjoys most of the organizational advantages in the contest. In Markey’s case, he has an even more enviable advantage in this respect; he is the choice of both the party’s base and the party’s establishment.

Second; Is Gabriel Gomez “surging” in the race for the Republican nomination? Not likely. Like Markey, Sullivan has the organizational and turnout advantages that go with being the candidate of his party’s base. The fact that he may not have the support of the Mass GOP “establishment” isn’t nearly as important as it would be in a Democratic primary because few people can even identify the “establishment” in the Mass GOP. The endorsement of former Governor Bill Weld may well signal that moderate voters might be attracted to Gomez, but moderate voters are the least likely voters to show up to a party primary. It is much more likely that the very precarious “lead” Gomez registered in this latest poll is merely the predictable result of the fact that he has outspent Mr. Sullivan 9 to 1 in this campaign. The other glaring deficiency in this result is that the relevant margin of error is plus or minus 9, which makes characterizing Gomez’s 6 point lead as a lead highly debatable.

I hate to be a buzz kill, but Markey and Sullivan remain the safe bets for April 30th.

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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